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Dave Fellows, Nolan Fellows, Debbie Smith, Aviana Smith, and Dwayne Smith are the folks behind (and seated on) the Ugly Gold Couch.

Featured Article

Flipping for Fun

How a Passion for Pinball Turned into a Trio's Private Pinball Clubhouse

Article by Jordan Gray

Photography by Ugly Gold Couch, Jordan Gray & Provided

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Step inside Garden City’s Ugly Gold Couch (4688 W. Chinden Boulevard), and you’ll be greeted by the Black Knight’s cry of “WAR!” You’ll also hear “The Lord of the Rings” soundtrack mingle with “Guardians of the Galaxy” tunes. Move to the back room, and you’ll find the eponymous ugly gold couch. And overlaying it all will be electromechanical pinball machine chimes.

This colorful world is the private pinball clubhouse of Dwayne Smith, Debbie Smith, and Dave Fellows. Also known as the Treasure Valley Pinball Museum, UGC has let pinball wizards try their fingers at the flippers since 2019.

UGC sprang from Dwayne Smith’s childhood passion, and his adult realization that a person could actually buy a pinball machine. He and wife Debbie Smith purchased Taxi, and have collected ever since.

“Every time one comes around, we want it,” Debbie Smith said.

When the Smiths helped organized state championship tournaments, they met Fellows, who came to support his son. He soon picked up pinball collecting himself.

UGC holds the two families’ combined 50-game collection, ranging from 1971 to 2018. The games come from all over, with some transactions more adventurous than others.

“You may have to go to a barn and fight chickens,” Debbie Smith said of one memorable purchase.

As the museum has gained popularity, people often reach out when selling games.

“They like the idea their machine can come and live here,” Dwayne Smith said.

While UGC isn’t a repair shop, they’ve picked up some tricks. That was on display as Dwayne Smith and Fellows diagnosed Judge Dredd’s broken flipper, opening the game to find a busted spring.

“These machines are 40-50 years old, so things just wear out,” Fellows said.

“The very first time we turned (Capt. Card) on, smoke came out the back,” Dwayne Smith said.

Operating on a donation basis, UGC said they’ll hold open play hours again when it’s safe to do so. Until then, UGC time can be scheduled through its Facebook page.

Curious about which game is best? Debbie Smith suggested, “Play every machine and find out what you like, because you might be surprised.”

As for the trio, while favorite games were hard to pick, favorite features were easy.

“I absolutely love spinners,” Dwayne Smith said. “They’re so satisfying to hit.”

“I like games that have the old-fashioned chimes in them,” Debbie Smith said.  

“The jump rope on Champion Pub is pretty cool,” Fellows said, referencing the boxing-themed game where you ‘jump’ a pinball over a rotating metal ‘rope.’ “Every game has some sort of character like that.”

“Play something that calls to you,” Dwayne Smith said.

  • Dave Fellows, Nolan Fellows, Debbie Smith, Aviana Smith, and Dwayne Smith are the folks behind (and seated on) the Ugly Gold Couch.
  • Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy 1975
  • Roller Coaster Tycoon 2002

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